This is a German-style sourdough rye bread that you can find in just about any bakery in Germany (yes, with spelt flour). It’s a wonderful option for open-face sandwiches and served with soup. It is a lighter rye bread and doesn’t contain cocoa or oats, like sourdough dark rye bread.
While this does, of course, have a tighter crumb than a white flour loaf, I don’t see this as a negative. Most German breads are more dense and – shockingly – they also have lots of flavour. Adding alternative flours like rye, and spelt, reduce the gluten content but make for a fantastic tasting loaf.
With a low-hydration dough like this, it is easier to work with and doesn’t stick to work surfaces as much. Keep in mind that mixing needs a bit more elbow grease, but apart from that, it is simple in terms of mixing and shaping. The dough is slightly stickier due to the high rye content.
This recipe is adapted from my spelt sourdough bread. That post has an accompanying video that may be helpful if you’re unclear on some of the methods used here.
Why You Should Try This Recipe
If you like rye bread, you’ll love this homemade version. Not only is it much less expensive to make at home than to buy, it’s also surprisingly easy and good for novice bread bakers. This loaf is in our weekly rotation.
- It tastes great: this isn’t a chewy, tasteless apart from a bit of sour flavour, loaf! This is a more traditional German sourdough rye, with loads of nutty flavour from the rye and spelt flours.
- Low hydration is easier: especially for beginners, a low hydration bread is easier to work with for folding and shaping.
- Sourdough lasts longer: this loaf still tastes good after a week and doesn’t dry out as quickly as yeast bread does. The crust might get a bit tough but that’s it.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Rye Flour: I often make this with sifted rye flour, but whole grain works too. It will make the bread slightly denser but the flavour is excellent.
- Spelt Flour: I recommend using light spelt for this recipe, no matter the type of rye flour. As you get more confident over time with it, you can use a higher percentage of whole grain spelt. I haven’t tried using white or standard wheat flour to sub for the spelt.
- Sourdough Starter: any 100% hydration starter made with flour that contains gluten. Whole wheat, spelt, rye, it doesn’t matter.
- Sea Salt: fine grain if possible. The salt amount shouldn’t be changed.
Step by Step
1. Mix liquids: mix the starter and water in a large bowl until combined.
2. Add dry ingredients: both flours and salt.
3. Mix: use a wooden spoon or spatula to mix until the liquids are absorbed.
4. Use your hands: the dough will be very shaggy. Mix with your hands to incorporate fully.
5. Rest: set aside to rest for 30 minutes before stretching, to relax the gluten.
6. Stretch and fold: do three rounds of stretches and folds.
7. Shape: after folding, the dough should be smooth and rounded.
8. Form a boule: use your hands to rotate the dough into a boule or ball with surface tension.
9. Place in the basket: seam side up into a lined and floured banneton.
10. Rise: a couple hours at room temperature, and then in the refrigerator overnight.
11. Score: turn the dough out onto paper and score if desired, then place into the preheated pot.
12. Bake: for about 40 minutes total.
There is not a very significant oven spring for this loaf. The dough rises primarily in the refrigerator and then not as much in the oven, so please keep this in mind. It is rye bread.
Scoring is optional, and only really needed here to control the way the bread rises during baking. Without scoring, the top usually cracks slightly instead.
The dough will seem too dense and firm to stretch and fold, but it isn’t. You might need to pull and shake it a bit during the stretches, but it gets less hard as you work with it.
How to Store
Storage: simply place it in an airtight container and keep at room temperature for 3-4 days. I usually keep it in the same pot it’s baked in. It will keep longer than that but does harden over time.
Freezing: individual slices are ideal and can be thawed during the toasting process. Otherwise, wrap well and freeze as a whole loaf (I use a double layer of beeswax wrap and paper). Thaw in a tea towel at room temperature.
- Line the banneton: this is a stickier dough and tends to stick to even the most seasoned basket. Line with a linen towel and sprinkle with flour to ensure a good release.
- Don’t over shape: this is a lower gluten bread and will tear more easily during shaping. A quick shape to make it round is enough, don’t rotate it too much.
- Room temperature first: I know it seems a bit finicky, but the short rise at room temperature is necessary for the proving to be successful. If you refrigerate immediately, the dough will be under proved. This has been extensively tested.
More Ancient Grain Sourdough Recipes
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Sourdough Rye Bread
- 300 grams water room temperature
- 100 grams sourdough starter 100% hydration
- 300 grams light (sifted) spelt flour
- 250 grams rye flour
- 10 grams sea salt
- Add the water and starter to a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine.300 grams water, 100 grams sourdough starter
- Add the spelt flour, rye flour, and salt to the bowl, and use a wooden spoon or spatula to mix until a shaggy dough forms. Finish mixing with your hands to fully incorporate the flour. The dough will feel quite hard and dense, this is normal.300 grams light (sifted) spelt flour, 250 grams rye flour, 10 grams sea salt
- Cover the bowl and set aside to rest for 30 minutes.
- Once the dough has rested, begin your stretches and folds. Do three rounds of stretches and folds over the course of an hour, once every 20 minutes.
- Form the dough into a ball or boule by placing it onto a clean surface and using your hands to rotate until surface tension forms.
- Line a banneton or round bowl with a tea towel and sprinkle with flour. Place the dough upside-down into the prepared basket.
- Cover and set aside to rise at room temperature for two hours. The dough should visibly rise during this time.
- Place the dough into the refrigerator overnight, or for at least eight hours. Cover with a plate to prevent drying.
- Place a heat-safe dutch oven into the centre rack of your oven and preheat the oven to 250°C (480°F).
- Turn the dough out onto a piece of parchment paper and score with a sharp knife (scoring optional).
- Carefully remove the dutch oven from the oven, remove the lid, and place your loaf into it, using the parchment paper as handles to lift the bread.
- Place the bread into the oven and reduce the temperature to 230°C (450°F).
- Bake for 20 minutes with the lid on, then remove the lid and bake for another 15-20 minutes, or until browned to your desired degree.
- Remove from the oven and cool in the pot for ten minutes before carefully removing the bread and cooling fully on a wire rack. It must be completely cool before slicing. For this loaf, I recommend cooling for a minimum of eight hours.
- Store the bread in the pot you've baked it in, or freezing individual slices and toasting to thaw.
* For American cup measurements, please click the pink link text above the ingredient list that says ‘American’.
Nutrition is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate. If this information is important to you, please have it verified independently.
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